There can be some confusion between the musical genres of Semba and Kizomba. Both musical genres are from Angola, but there are some key differences between them.
Semba is a traditional style of music from Angola that developed from Massemba with a mixture of the carnival musical rhythms of Kazukuta and Kabetula. Semba is a predecessor to Samba (Brazil) and to Kizomba and Kuduro (Angola). Semba can range from 85 – 150 bpm. Traditional Semba songs use acoustical instruments although some more modern Semba songs will incorporate some electronic instruments. Some typical instruments in traditional Semba are:
- Mukindo – a percussion instrument made of bamboo or wood that is struck with a stick
- Dikanza – a percussion instrument (also called reco-reco) made of wood or bamboo that is ribbed. Rubbing a stick along the ribs produces a scraping type sound.
- Batuque – Ngoma Solo, Ngoma Base, Conga drums
- Other drums
- Berimbau – a musical bow (single string percussion instrument)
- Pan flute, wooden whistle
- Horns (trumpet, saxophone)
Kizomba, which means “party” in the Kimbundu dialect of Angola, is mainly a fusion of Semba and Zouk musical styles. Zouk, which also means “party”, was brought to Africa in the early 80’s by the group Kassav from Guadeloupe, a part of the French Antilles in the Caribbean. Zouk’s huge popularity influenced many musical styles throughout Africa and the Caribbean. Kompa from Haiti and Afro Zouk musical styles from Cape Verde also had some influence on the development of Kizomba music in Angola. Kizomba music evolved from musicians trying to escape the tragedies of the civil war in Angola in the 70’s. The musical style of Kizomba was developed before the appearance of the dance style of Kizomba which was based on the dance of Semba. Kizomba music tends to be slower than Semba (80-120 bpm) and uses more electronic instruments than Semba. In Kizomba music, the keyboard and bass guitar are predominant. However, because classical Kizomba music also uses a lot of live instruments such as guitars, horns, drums and other percussion instruments, faster Kizomba songs are sometimes mistaken for Semba. The more traditional instruments found in Semba (mukindo, dikanza, batuque, accordion) are not normally used in Kizomba songs. The rhythm used for the instruments also differs between Semba and Kizomba, and the percussion in Semba is more constant throughout the song.
As a dancer, it is good to become more informed about the various musical genres that you like to dance to. Having a better appreciation of the music and the culture behind it forges better connections to the music. Social dancing is all about connection, to your partner and to the music. Having a better connection to the music will help to make you a better social dancer.